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Asking Locally to Someone Speaking Globally

November 24th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

A few moments ago I asked Al Gore, who was speaking on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight program the following question.

(My question comes at 36:30)

I would like to thank the Vice President for all his work in global warming.

My question has to do with what we can do to support and redevelop our industrial fence-line communities where the negative impacts of industries have created the most severely unsustainable conditions?

I am speaking directly about what has been allowed to occur on the Southern Shores of Lake Michigan (the world’s greatest fresh water resource), in Northwest Indiana. Where BP, the second largest oil refinery in the country is located, along with ArcelorMittal the largest integrated steel mill and U.S. Steel.

The results of this kind of concentration of industry has created such a threatening environment, effecting the land we use, the air we breath and the water we drink and recreate in. Consequently, this is the location of the:

<Water>

  • Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal, arguably the most polluted waterway in the country (the only waterway to fail every beneficial use).
  • Joerse Beach, the most polluted beach in the Great Lakes and the third in the country

<Air>

  • Lake County Indiana’s air-shed – ranking as the 7th most polluted county (of 3,100 counties) based on TRI.

<Land>

  • ~17% of East Chicago’s residential properties are apart of a superfund site, having been build upon an old lead refinery.
  • ~40% of the lands are considered to be brownfields, e.g., out of productive use and perceived to be contaminated.

Al Gore’s disappointing response highlights a serious perceptual divide.

Now that the environmental debate has been made a middle-class issue. Let’s desegregate Gore’s solution and begin to focus on the source of pollution and the mostly poor minority communities that carry the greatest burden of industrial productivity and receive the heaviest concentration of negative effects from these activities. Middle-class America is so worried in how industry has effected their quality of life, that they haven’t hesitated to acknowledge the devastating effects industry continues to have in the communities in which the industry resides.

150-years ago American’s recognized that it wasn’t a good thing to drink from the same waters in which you shit. So in 1856 Chicago broke ground on America’s first sewage system. Today the challenge is to separate industrial waste and pollutants from the the waters we drink.

Here’s a simple solution – Solve the environmental problems for fence-line industrial communities and you solve the problem for middle-class America and the causes of global warming.

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